BY VOICE STAFF
Lightning reportedly struck Pelham’s iconic Comfort Maple late Tuesday afternoon.
Pelham’s new CAO, David Cribbs, alerted the Voice, and Fire Chief Bob Lymburner confirmed that the fire department responded just after 5 PM.
“The damage was limited to the base on the east side,” said Lymburner, who added that he would request that the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) assess the damage and report back.
Visiting the scene at 7 PM, the Voice found minimal charring at the tree’s base, roughly 10 inches wide by about 24 inches high. What appeared to be a loose support cable hung from above. A complex web of metal cables has been installed over the years to help maintain the tree’s structural integrity. It wasn’t clear whether the strike occurred directly at the base of the tree, or farther up, with the charge travelling down the metal cable.
“The old girl has probably taken several strikes over the centuries,” said Mayor Marvin Junkin. “One has to wonder if all the metal now holding her together, is, in any way, making the tree more susceptible to strikes in the future.”
According to the NPCA, the Ontario Forestry Association estimated the tree to be 400-500 years old in 1975. It stands about 24.4 metres at its crown with a trunk circumference of six meters. It’s named after the Comfort family, who settled on the surrounding land in 1816. A descendant donated the tree and adjacent property to the NPCA in 1961.
UPDATE: Fire Chief Bob Lymburner reported late Wednesday the results of an NPCA inspection on site, where it was found that a grounding rod had been stolen, leaving the tree to absorb the lightning’s force. The NPCA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.